Having the infinite power to survey and analyze while stuck with the limitations of the human body.
If you ever felt like The Flash needed a handicap, this would be the best one to give him. Given the power of high speed thought and processing, without the powers of high speed movement. How useful is being able to see the Matrix if you can’t manipulate yourself fast enough to dodge bullets.
Superhot is an experiment with these limitations.
The game opens up slowly, in the style of bringing intrigue and curiosity to the picture. A friend recommends you a game to try out, so you do. This is when you start learning your mechanics.
When you move, time passes. When you don’t move, time stops.
Minimal Spoilers Throughout
Set and Setting, Transition to Digital
There’s a few things that Superhot nails at this point. Set and Setting: bring the player’s psychological state and the physical surroundings to a harmonious coexistence. The game starts off light on story and light on gameplay. As the game adds more and more enemies, harder placement, more mechanics to manage, the story get more frantic as the character feels more disconnected from their intended actions. Feeling more isolated from the physical world, but more connected to the digital world.
In the interludes outside of “playing the game,” it gives you just enough story outside of the “game” to give context to what’s happening inside the “game.”
You’re just playing a game, illegally.
At the beginning, you’re already someplace you don’t belong. This comes up consistently, transitioning from your friend telling you that you don’t belong there, to the game telling you that you don’t belong there. But the more you return, the more you’re accepted as long as you follow the rules.
But Superhot does a great job at keeping that transition from disconnect to acceptance a part of the game’s mechanics. The more you accept being disconnected from the Physical world to the Digital one, you become able to accept losing attachments to the physical world, like your meat-bag of a human body. This lets you do things like transfer from body to body within the “game,” but most importantly it explains the little things that you might notice within the game; like when you complete a level, you throw your weapon away.
Superhot gives you just enough clues as to why the “game” that you’re playing should feel off-putting. You’re doing something illegal, you get reprimanded. “You think this is just a toy.” If it’s not a toy, then it has a purpose. You’re affecting some system that isn’t replaceable. The game keeps you guessing with enough breadcrumbs inside and outside of the “game” that you keep pushing yourself to find out the whys and the hows.
The Gameplay, More than the Story
Superhot itself is fun as hell. Because of the speedtrap mechanic, it lets the levels be designed less like an FPS and more like a puzzle game. You start at some location with these weapons in your vicinity, you can only do these moves to kill an enemy with the time window given before focusing on the next set of enemies and such and such.
The only issue with making it a puzzle game is that usually puzzles only have one way (or a handful of ways) of solving the problem, but Superhot tries to have the solutions be as open-ended as possible. This is good in the sense that you get to come up with any manner of solution that you think feasible, but it also means that you can cheese the enemies or just learn patterns to beat each level. If you play a level enough times, you’re able to figure out where enemies will spawn and where they’ll run to, making the puzzle aspect of the game a trivial solution at some point.
But, once you beat Superhot the game opens up to the puzzle-FPS that it deserves to be recognized as. You get a large swath of extra modes to stretch your puzzle planning muscles and go all out on optimizing your movements and your planning.
Katana-only mode, speedrun mode, speedrun real-time mode are the first additional game modes that open up, and truthfully are the best for finding the most optimal routes to completing each stage. Speedrun mode, complete a level with as little movement as possible (time stops when you stop). Speedrun RT, complete a level with as little time as possible (time doesn’t stop when you stop).
While the story-mode adds a small learning curve to the game as it slowly dishes out its mechanics to keep the pacing between game and story in-sync, it never really gets difficult. But when playing these extra game modes, it keeps the pace high and learning curve steep. You should already know the basic mechanics of the game, but can you manipulate them to beat a level in 10 seconds? 6 seconds? 4 seconds?
Being able to finesse your way through a level with as little wasted movement as possible is an incredible feeling. Shaving off tenths of a second by finding out better ways of manipulating enemies, finding the best ways to pick up a gun and where to aim so that enemies walk into your bullets. You feel superhuman when accomplishing it correctly. Then you get to watch it all on replay in real-time.
If it wasn’t obvious, Superhot is a great game to pickup. The story is interesting and gets the idea of mingling context between story and gameplay to keep you interested and guessing, albeit the story-mode is pretty short. The gameplay is fun and inventive and probably the first puzzle-FPS action game worth talking about.